Saturday, August 30, 2008

LOVE IT!!!!

Too crazy busy to write much substantial stuff today. I just have to pass along a few things I'm absolutely enthralled with these days.

While messing around on Amazon I came across Tristan Prettyman's new album "Hello...X". I'm always looking for new singer-songwriters that I can listen to with my daughters. Not that I don't looove Miley Cyrus, but there are other messages out there I'd like to encourage, you know? Tristan's songs are upbeat, clever and her voice is gorgeous. This CD has earned an honored place in my kitchen CD player which is switched on every time I'm in there (about 15 hours a day some days). If you love smart chick music, check it out!

School starts Wednesday and I'm already dreading packing lunches every. damn. day. I hate plastic bags, both for their damnable convenience and the fact that they will exist on the planet forever. Oh, the guilt when I reach into that drawer and pull out another one! Last year I experimented with small reusable plastic containers, but the girls complained that their lunch bags were stuffed full once I put a thermos of soup in there, a small inflexible container of pretzels or crackers, a small inflexible container of fruit and a small inflexible container of veggies. Forget finding room for a water bottle unless I want to pack lunches in a backpack. This year, I got rid of (read: recycled) all of my tupperware in favor of glass containers that I can wash and put in the microwave without worrying about leaching toxic materials into our food. So, now what? Enter the Wrap 'n Mat. Just goes to show you that necessity is the mother of invention. Especially when the inventor is a mother ;-). I love these things. The patterns are a little strange sometimes, but the girls like the red gingham just fine. Whew! One problem solved. Now, anyone know how to convince my kids to eat pb and j sandwiches five days a week?

Finally, I'm not sure this qualifies as something I love or something I'm loving to hate, but it's a big part of my life right now, so it bears inclusion on this list. I'm busy reading The Omnivore's Dilemma" right now at an uncharacteristically (for me) slow pace. It's a slow go because there are things in there that I am having trouble learning about the way our American food machine works. I have to read ten or so pages at a time and then put it down and reward myself with some brain candy. I had previously thought of myself as a fairly informed consumer with a desire to decrease my impact on the planet. Consider me educated. I'll be changing the way we eat even more after this. I won't reveal the details except to say I was shocked at what farm subsidies have actually accomplished (not in a good way) over the past fifty years and thoroughly disgusted to learn that it takes a barrel of oil to raise a cow from birth to slaughterhouse when it's fed corn on a "cow mill" in the midwest. Ugh.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Push & Pull


My meditations last night came in the form of monotonous physical labor. As I knelt on sodden towels chipping away at the inches-thick ice on the shelves of my freezer with a butter knife, I found myself with plenty of time to ruminate.

Pleased with myself for working at something tangible and useful, my thoughts drifted quite naturally to my father. I was determined to begin and complete this task in one sitting, clearing away the frost, emptying the freezer of outdated items, thoroughly wiping it down inside and out, and restocking it with the fruits of my labors from the past two days - freezer jam made from 18 pounds of blackberries our family picked by hand. Dad would be proud.

The thought of speeding my work up with my hairdryer flitted through my head like a moth toward a lamp. Just as quickly that notion was dismissed. If there was one thing my father had taught me after working for the power company for 35 years, it was how dangerous electricity could be. And I was actually considering sitting in a puddle of water and plugging an appliance in? I don't think so. Actually, the consistent plugging away was satisfying. I managed to chip a substantial chunk of ice off every four or five minutes - just enough to keep me feeling as though my efforts were being rewarded.

Poke, poke, poke. How much am I really like my father today? Poke, poke, poke. I was so desperate to make him proud of me as a child. I emulated him in so many ways. Poke, poke, poke - chips of ice flew around the inside of the freezer, settling like snow. I remember the qualities Dad hated - weakness, indecision, lack of confidence, followers. Poke, poke, poke. I can envision the people who embodied those things and the way I tried to distance myself from them. Poke, poke, crash - an iceberg loosened its grip on the metal shelf and fell to the one below. The desire to NOT be any of those things was so strong.

The strength of a magnet is equal in both directions. When two similar poles are put together, the force that pushes them apart is no stronger than the force that pulls two opposite poles together.

Admiration for certain qualities in others often causes me to strive to attain similar qualities. This desire, however, is nowhere near as strong as the aversion I feel for other qualities. As a teenager, I was determined NOT to be like my mother. As a young pregnant woman, I was certain I would NOT have a baby who sucked on a pacifier or screamed in public. In my twenties, I swore I would not start coloring my hair simply to cover any grey ones that might show up when the time came. Regardless of my ability to control any of these outcomes, my distaste for these scenarios was strong and visceral. I found it much easier and, indeed, more desirable, to push away from certain things than I have ever found it to pull toward other things.

I spent much of my youth trying NOT to be certain things and not enough time asking who I might end up being as a result. Pushing away from something does not necessarily mean that you will end up nearer the opposite (and therefore good) object. Perhaps my time would be much better spent identifying where I want to go and exercising my muscles by pulling.

I can't say that I came to any earth-shattering conclusions, but the questions were interesting. And my freezer is gorgeous inside and out.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Lost in Space

Well, not exactly. Actually, I've been spending my time working full time at the girls' school helping the teachers order and unpack all of their new supplies for the upcoming school year. School starts in less than two weeks and we spent the summer doubling the number of classrooms we have, so we are all scrambling to get ready in time. I'm a half-time employee, but all bets are off right now - all hands on deck!

Every night I come home exhausted and overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff I have yet to do, making dinner, laundry, giving the poor neglected dog some attention, and squeezing in some quality time with Bubba and the girls. We spend our weekends running around getting the rest of the errands done that we didn't manage to get to during the week. I can't wait for the first day of school so I can stop working and get back to my own life.

Because I'm too tired to blog anything more substantial, I thought I would post the titles of some of my summer reading.

A friend gave me "Garden Spells" by Sarah Addison Allen. It's a terrific fictional account of the history of a family who tends a garden full of special powers. A quick and thoroughly enjoyable read!

I stumbled on a book by Diana Abu-Jaber called "Origin" and found myself completely sucked in by the mystery and intrigue despite the slightly sci-fi tendencies. By the end I was determined to find more books written by this woman who has a wonderful way with language.

The next book I read was her memoir entitled "The Language of Baklava" which had me rolling on the floor with laughter and cringing with embarrassment for the things she endured as a teenager at the hands of her obnoxious, well-meaning father.

I went back to fiction with "The Friday Night Knitting Club" by Kate Jacobs and sailed through this fun tale of a group of women and their emerging relationships with each other. It really made me wish I knitted.

I'm in the middle of "Reviving Ophelia" by Mary Pipher right now. It's a great book for anyone who is raising a daughter. Ms. Pipher has an amazing perspective on the way our media-saturated culture affects and labels girls and first-hand accounts of their experiences during adolescence. Scary!

Please don't give up on me. I'll be back with more regularity as soon as school starts.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Men are Just Women with Testicles

And women are just men with breasts. Essentially. I know there are other differences, but honestly, we are so much more alike than we are different. Unconsciously, though, I often find myself putting men in to a not-so-flattering box.

As I watched these newlyweds (see previous post) strolling down the beach hand in hand, holding hands over breakfast, swimming together in the pool, certain thoughts pushed their way through the crowds to the forefront of my brain, popping out center stage:

"I wonder if that guy knows how desperately she loves him."
"I wonder if he's checking out some of these other hot women in bikinis on the beach."
"I wonder if these two know how hard it is to sustain a marriage."

Not exactly warm-and-fuzzy honeymoon thoughts, huh? In fact, they are pretty awful thoughts. I was shocked, myself, to hear them proclaim themselves in my brain as I sat next to Bubba. Bubba, who has stood beside me offering his helping hand every single time I needed it. Bubba, who loves our children without bounds and never fails to tell them. Bubba, who loves me, too.

But, wait! Some ancient segment of my brain screams. Men leave! They never love us as much as we love them. They don't need us. They always leave. It's just a matter of when, not if.

She's the one I need to convince. She isn't sure that Bubba will stay forever. She has sat by and had her heart and spirit broken as her father left, her stepfather left, her brother checked out. She fell in love for the first time and kept some parts of herself sacred, not sharing so that she couldn't get burned again. Just as she began to trust this relationship tentatively and spun out a silky fine string of need, she missed. He turned and left and the end of that tether fell softly to the ground. No matter that it didn't make any noise - she felt it as though it were the collapse of a two-ton bridge. A steel door slamming shut. Men leave.

All evidence to the contrary pings off that steel door like balls of rubber cement thrown by first graders. She's not opening up.

Turning away from that door, I began watching these couples play together, talk to each other, look at each other with humor and tenderness. My heart relaxed, the corners of my mouth turned up and I was able to see them with an appreciation of this perfect moment - they love each other now. Maybe, just possibly, he loves her as much as she loves him. Maybe he needs her a little bit. Maybe he thinks of her as the best thing in his life. Maybe being with her makes him want to be the kind of person she thinks he is. Maybe men don't always leave. Maybe they are just like us, only with testicles.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Vacationing in Honeymoonland


All in the name of 'feathering my nest,' and reconnecting with my family, I was lucky enough to spend the last two weeks with Bubba and the girls in Hawaii. Lounging by the pool and the ocean, I had a lot of time to people-watch (one of my favorite guilty pleasures). What I noticed was a lot of newlyweds. About half of the population of the resort were newlyweds. Honeymooners.

I will admit, my thoughts ran to the gutter. Every morning as the four of us strolled down the hall toward the pool, towels slung over our shoulders, Bubba's espresso-radar on full alert, my eyes strayed to the doorknobs of our neighbors' doors. The DO NOT DISTURB signs hung on every second or third handle, proclaiming their need to sleep in or at least have some privacy. When I watched these couples lying next to each other on their lounges, holding hands, applying each others' sunscreen I reached far back into the nether regions of my memory trying to recall my own honeymoon.

Yes, we did manage to make it out of the hotel room from time to time to enjoy the beach and the scenery. We did explore the town and go for walks and have normal conversations. We weren't all over each other 24/7. So why was I surprised that these couples acted like normal human beings versus testosterone-driven animals in heat? Jealousy, I think.

I love Bubba and I know he loves me. We have inside jokes, share our thoughts mostly uncensored with each other. We make a good parenting team and have similar short and long-term goals. We have a terrific marriage and I honestly wouldn't change it. Except that we've been married for fifteen years and were together for three before that. History and longevity are important. Time marches on. Can't stop it, right? But as I observed new couple after new couple gazing into each others' eyes, oblivious to the others around them, just beginning their lives together - this was not 'playing house,' I felt a sadness that Bubba and I have passed the spark stage. We have a committed, comfortable, honest relationship but that newness, that shiny, we-are-invincible-and-the-center-of-the-universe-ness is gone.

I wouldn't trade my life for the world. Nope, not anything. I am blessed with a wonderful family and amazing friends. I am not complaining or whining. I just wish I would have fully appreciated that relationship newness more when I had it.
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